San Antonio Software Event Combines Pizza, Learning, and Networking

San Antonio—For anyone considering learning how to write code for software, it can feel as intimidating as diving into a foreign language.

That’s partly why David Daeschler, a San Antonio entrepreneur, started an event series called Dinner and Code. He wanted to offer free lessons to people who were interested in learning computer programming, but didn’t know where or how to start. But the series is also targeting people with experience in coding, people who might want to collaborate with others on a software project but are too intimidated or introverted to participate in events like coding competitions, Daeschler says.

“Some of the smartest programmers I’ve ever met are kind of introverted. I wanted to make something that gets people together that’s not intimidating,” Daeschler says. “Software is software, but it’s still mostly about people.”

Dinner and Code has hosted two events so far, one in August and a second last weekend. Held at the Geekdom Event Centre, about 30 people attended each one.

The programming runs from 4 p.m. to 10 p.m., and is divided into three sections. Daeschler focuses the first two hours on introducing coding to beginners, primarily on teaching the Python programming language and explaining basics such as how to understand variables and functions, among other details.

The final three to four hours are for collaborating on software development projects. Daeschler and volunteers who work with him will provide projects for beginners to work on, and more experienced folks can bring their own projects to further develop and ask questions about. The volunteers are typically people who work in software and can provide mentorship, he says.

In between comes the dinner: typically pizza, salad, hummus, and veggies. All of the costs are currently covered by Daeschler’s company, SlideWave, a software consulting business that he started about a year ago. (Daeschler says he is considering seeking sponsors for the event and potentially spinning Dinner and Code out as its own organization.)

SlideWave, which rents an office at co-working space Geekdom, focuses on companies that need software help, such as full-stack development work—anything from work on 3-D software to complex distributed databases, he says. He’s worked with seven clients so far, from retailers to military departments to healthcare businesses. He currently employs one full-time person and three part-timers.

Daeschler is planning Dinner and Code events in November and December, with the latter potentially being expanded to include discussions about a variety of other areas of software, such as UX/UI design and project management. He expects to announce dates on the group’s Meetup page in the coming days, where people can sign up.

In 2014, Daeschler moved to San Antonio from Buffalo, NY, where he worked in programming. He says the purpose of the Dinner and Code program is to help others have a better experience learning to code than he did, when he was young and tinkering with writing simple games on an IBM XT computer, without anyone to run ideas by.

“The initial idea was just me remembering how crappy it was to sit by myself doing this stuff,” Daeschler says. “What would give me the ultimate ‘warm-and-fuzzy’ is to have somebody come up to me and say, ‘We met at dinner and code, we formed a startup and we’re doing really well.’ ”

David Holley is Xconomy's national correspondent based in Austin, TX. You can reach him at dholley@xconomy.com Follow @xconholley

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